With the conference season winding down in the Midland Athletic League, two teams stood unbeaten at 8-0, atop the league standings. One was a veteran Mohawk squad, the other was young and hungry Calvert team.
When the two met Thursday at Calvert, experience prevailed.
Mohawk dispatched of the Senecas 25-22, 25-16, 25-16, leaving the Warriors alone atop the league.
For all Mohawk accomplished a year ago, including a trip to state, the one thing that eluded the Warriors was a league title. Now the team sits on the doorstep of filling that gap.
The Warriors hold a one-game edge over Calvert and New Riegel with two to play. One more win gives the Warriors at least a share; two more wins gives them the whole thing.
"That was definitely one of our goals this year," Mohawk coach Eric Hoover said. "If there was one thing last year we could've changed that would've been it. But we put ourselves in position this year to have a much better chance of that. We got two more games to go, and we don't want to share. So we're going to work hard and do everything we need to do to come out and win the next two."
"This is awesome," Mohawk's Sarah Parker added. "This is another step towards reaching our goal and it feels amazing to have everyone come here and play good and get a win."
Parker said after the game she wanted to come out and make a statement early. She certainly lived up to that vow with her performance in the first game.
Calvert jumped out to a 4-1 lead but Parker led the way as Mohawk reeled off the next seven points, with Parker collecting four kills in that span. She totaled nine kills in the first game alone, and 19 in the match.
"I had a feeling in warmups that Sarah was feeling pretty good tonight," Hoover said. "So that was good, she came out and had a really strong first game. We wanted to get on them early. I know (Calvert is) young and they've obviously had a really good year, but they're still young, and I felt if we got on them early it would certainly be to our advantage."
Mohawk looked poised to put the first game away early up 24-16. However, Calvert rallied putting up the next six points, starting with a kill by Haley Felter. Kelsey Hendrix served an ace, Jordan Gase picked up a pair of kills and Amber Perry slammed a kill of her own, helping get Calvert within two at 24-22.
Julie Adelsperger responded for Mohawk with a kill of her own to bring an end to the first game.
"We went up against a veteran ball club," Calvert coach Greg Hendrix said. "We knew what we were facing in Mohawk. You're talking about a team that went to state, final four last year and they got all their key components back this year. We're an extremely young ballclub. We knew what we were facing in this. I can't be upset at the girls. They came out and gave it absolutely everything they had. We just got beat by a good ball club on that floor tonight."
Mohawk had the game in hand, but Calvert seemingly had momentum with its late run. Hoover, though, was anxious for his team to put an end to it.
"That was something I could talk about in between the first and second game," he said. "I could kind of use that. 'Hey, we gave them some momentum. We got to come out early and get the lead early and gain control again, so they don't continue with that momentum.'"
"It was mainly just relax, communicate more," Parker said of Hoover's message. "We've been playing volleyball since fifth grade. We know how to pass a ball; we know how to hit a ball. It's just a matter of putting it all together and having fun."
Mohawk opened the second game with a 6-1 run behind aces by Clara Adelsperger and Lynsey Trusty, a kill by Parker and a pair of points off blocks from Julie Adelsperger. Calvert kept it close as Meridith Lucius had a kill and a pair of aces. The Senecas got as close as three at 15-12.
However, Mohawk closed out the second game with a 10-4 run, ending things with a Clara Adelsperger kill.
A Parker kill and two Julie Adelsperger aces opened up a Mohawk lead early in game three. Calvert stayed close early only down one at 6-5, but the Warriors went on 14-4 run to open things up with Kasey Adelsperger having three kills during that span. She also knocked down the game's final kill, becoming the third different Adelsperger to close out a game with a kill on the night.
Kasey finished the night with eight kills and Julie had seven.
Parker gave credit to the crowd support for helping inspire the team.
"We're lucky to have atmospheres like that," she said of the packed Calvert gym. "Not every high school team can come out and play in a tournament-like atmosphere. I remember last year at Elida (for regionals) it was like that. It's amazing. I'm grateful to everyone who comes out and watches us and supports us all the way. This is awesome."
Lucius and Perry each slammed six kills to lead Calvert (13-6, 8-1 MAL). Kaleigh Hendrix dished out 17 assists.
Calvert will try to rebound as its next league match will be against New Riegel Tuesday.
"It's a learning process," Hendrix said. "These kids got to learn to get over the hump. Going up in a match like this, they got to take the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives. They got to come back and go after a scrappy, solid New Riegel team. There's no stopping and pouting about it. We're a young team and we just got to pick ourselves back up off the canvas and go back after it."